Appearing on NDTV yesterday to explain his view to Barhka Dutt, Mansoor Ijaz’s answers actually raised more questions about his allegations in the ‘memogate’ controversy.
Mr Ijaz begins by saying that the international media should be asking “what the government is trying to cover up”, which is a strange way to begin the interview – we know what Mr Ijaz claims that government is trying to “cover up” because Mansoor Ijaz is the one who made the allegations to begin with. From there, the interview only got more bizarre.
Talking to Barkha Dutt, Mansoor Ijaz claims that he was approached about the memo because his anti-ISI beliefs made him “a plausibly deniable channel…and I agreed,” said Ijaz. “I knew that if something went wrong, there would be a need for plausible deniability.” Barkha picks up on this logical disconnect, and presses him on it. If he understood and agreed that this was a confidential process and that he would be denied if word got out, why did he reveal the story in a newspaper op-ed, and why does he act surprised when it is denied?
According to Mansoor Ijaz, he publicly revealed his alleged role in the ‘memogate’ affair because it added authenticity to his op-ed for The Financial Times. This raises another obvious question: If Mansoor Ijaz is as credible and trusted among American officials as he claims, why would he need to include some anecdote about his involvement with Pakistani officials in order to grant authenticity?
But that’s not the only strange thing about his new explanation. Mansoor Ijaz wrote an almost identical op-ed on 2nd June that also terms the ISI as “the enemy” and alleges a secret ‘S-Wing’ that is responsible for breeding terrorism – but he did not then feel the need to include any stories about secret memos.
Here is what Mansoor Ijaz wrote about the ISI on 2nd June:
The enemy is the ISI—it runs Pakistan from the shadows like a puppet master. The ISI is a danger to civilized societies everywhere, because it nurtures and breeds hatred among Pakistan’s Islamist masses, and then uses their thirst for jihad as a foreign policy sledge hammer against Pakistan’s neighbors and allies, often for no purpose besides just creating chaos.
And here is what he wrote about the ISI on 10th October:
The enemy is a state organ that breeds hatred among Pakistan’s Islamist masses and then uses their thirst for jihad against Pakistan’s neighbours and allies to sate its hunger for power. Taking steps to reduce its influence over Pakistan’s state affairs is a critical measure of the world’s willingness to stop the terror masters at their very roots.
Here is what Mansoor Ijaz wrote about the alleged ‘S-Wing’ on 2nd June:
The finger of responsibility in these recent events often points to a shadowy outfit of the ISI dubbed the S-Wing. A notorious group of operatives, the S-Wing is made up of active ISI officers, recent retirees, and plain-clothes civilians with highly specialized training—all dedicated to protecting and preserving Pakistan’s territorial integrity using any method, at any cost, with no regard for collateral damage. As black-ops units go, it is about as thuggish and ruthless as is possible, without being a criminal organization.
That is why the S-Wing should be declared a sponsor of terrorism under the “Foreign Governmental Organizations” designation by the U.S. State Department. It no longer matters whether the ISI is willfully blind, or explicitly complicit, in the murderous plots attributed to the S-Wing, which the ISI routinely denies any knowledge of or responsibility for. S-Wing must be stopped dead in its tracks before immeasurable harm comes from the missionary zeal of its agents, no matter how misguided their mission may be.
And here is what he wrote about the alleged ‘S-Wing’ on 10th October:
Questions about the ISI’s role in Pakistan have intensified in recent months. The finger of responsibility in many otherwise inexplicable attacks has often pointed to a shadowy outfit of ISI dubbed “S-Wing”, which is said to be dedicated to promoting the dubious agenda of a narrow group of nationalists who believe only they can protect Pakistan’s territorial integrity.
The time has come for the state department to declare the S-Wing a sponsor of terrorism under the designation of “foreign governmental organisations”. Plans by the Obama administration to blacklist the Haqqani network are toothless and will have no material impact on the group’s military support and intelligence logistics; it is S-Wing that allegedly provides all of this in the first place. It no longer matters whether ISI is wilfully blind, complicit or incompetent in the attacks its S-Wing is carrying out. S-Wing must be stopped.
Actually, the point of both pieces is the same – to declare the ISI and its alleged ‘S-Wing’ unit as the world’s terrorists. The only real difference is that in October, Ijaz added the dramatic story of the secret memo. This raises the question of what changed between 2nd June and 10th October that Mansoor Ijaz felt he needed to add an anecdotal story to back up his claims?
Meanwhile, it should also be noted that during the same timeline that Mansoor Ijaz claims he was working with Husain Haqqani to deliver the memo to American officials, Husain Haqqani was very publicly defending Pakistan and the ISI.
On 2 May, The Atlantic quoted Husain Haqqani saying:
“President Obama has answered the question about Pakistan’s role. It wouldn’t have been possible to get Bin Laden without Pakistan’s help. People are piling on this one, but the fact is, it is very plausible for someone to live undetected for long periods of time.”
On 3 May, The Guardian quoted Husain Haqqani saying:
“What I find incredulous is the notion that somehow, just because there is a private support network in Pakistan, the state, the government and the military of Pakistan shouldn’t be believed.”
On 4th May, Husain Haqqani spoke offered a strong defence of Pakistan’s security services when speaking to Barkha Dutt on NDTV.
And on 8 May, Husain Haqqani appeared on ABC News where he stated that:
If any member of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military, or the Pakistani intelligence service knew where Osama bin Laden was, we would have taken action. Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan was not to Pakistan’s advantage… As the national security adviser said, a lot more people have been arrested in Pakistan, including Al Qaida people, than in any other country. So Pakistan did not have a policy of protecting these people.
This raises yet another question: If Mansoor Ijaz really was working with Husain Haqqani, his partner in the conspiracy was undermining the credibility of the scheme day by day. How could American officials take seriously the offers made in Mansoor Ijaz’s memo while the Pakistani envoy was in the media defending the very group that Mansoor Ijaz was terming as terrorists?
Here is what we can confirm so far. Mansoor Ijaz is an “ultra-wealthy” and politically connected American businessman who believes that Pakistan’s intelligence agency is made up of terrorists and enemies, and he wants the American military to strike against them. We know that in May he delivered a memo to some American officials, and that the Americans “did not find it at all credible and took no note of it.” In June he wrote an op-ed making his allegations against the ISI public, but it seemed to get little attention. In October, he wrote another op-ed making the same allegations, only this time he added a sensational story about a conspiracy within the Pakistani government, and suddenly his name became front-page news. We also know that several weeks ago he held a secret meeting with DG ISI to discuss his evidence against the civilian officials.
The rest of the story remains pure speculation. Did Mansoor Ijaz and Husain Haqqani talk via email and BBM? Perhaps, but it is also likely that Mansoor Ijaz is not the only wealthy Pakistani-American in the Ambassador’s contacts. It is the job of a diplomat to cultivate relationships with influential and well-connected people. Did President Zardari authorize the memo or its contents? Actually, there has been nothing to suggest that he knew anything about it. And why, if Mansoor Ijaz believes the ISI are terrorists, is he working closely with the ISI to make his case?
Husain Haqqani has requested a full inquiry to clear his name, and has offered to turn over his Blackberry and his computer for a forensic investigation. Hopefully we will have more facts soon. In the meantime, media interviews and talk shows are only fueling speculation and creating more questions than answers.